Secrets (an apple plum sauce recipe)

Not many people know but once I tried being a vegetarian.  All I can say is I was young and impressionable and that it was during my competitive figure skating years.  Lots of the girls I skated with hid their anorexia behind their vegetarianism, but that’s not why I did it.  I did it because Alicia Silverstone, the star of “Clueless,” was a vegetarian.  I tried in earnest but after a few months of eating nothing but edamame and baked potatoes with salsa, I caved.  One Saturday after ballet and running Mulholland, I downed a quart of milk then asked my mother to make me a steak.

Since then I have employed an equal opportunities approach to eating.  I love eating. Everything.  Which is why if you asked me which food I could live without–Spanish peaches, French cherries, Hungarian peppers, Sicilian tuna, Black Angus beef, Maine lobster, or Cromer crab–I wouldn’t be able to answer you.  To me, they’re all necessary and if I could never have one of them again I would mourn the fact.

CUT TO: ME IN MOURNING

I’ve been taking anticoagulants for over a month now and going in for blood work most every week.  If you saw the bruises on my arms you’d think I was an extra on Vinyl. Friday I was told that on top of whatever pulmonary problems I have, I also have high cholesterol.  Not yet high enough to be put on statins, but high enough to be categorized as high.  Anyone who reads Chagrinnamon Toast knows I’m a woman who loves a piece of pie, but I’m also a woman who soaks her own beans, makes her own stock, and eats lots of vegetable dishes.  I have to admit, this news came as a shock and the fact that I’ve been advised to cut out animal products in an effort to lower my cholesterol has me disheartened.

I feel like I have to learn to cook again.  The thing is I do have several plant based cookbooks on my shelf though I seldom use them.  Not because I don’t like the way the recipes taste, but because there is too much prep work involved.  If a recipe requires me to grind spices and chop herbs for more than an hour, I’m not going to make it.  Part of why I love roast chicken so much (or roast of any kind) is that it’s easy to prepare.  I can walk away from it as the alchemy happens in the oven.  I have yet to experience the same freedom or satisfaction when cooking vegetables.  I’ll even admit that my ratatouille recipe I love is sometimes so tedious I can’t bother.

As for vegetables masquerading as meat. . . I don’t get it.  It’s like some sort of kitchen cosplay where seitan pretends to be sausage and tofu turns into counterfeit crab.  To each their own, but personally no thank you.  In December, I went to one of Los Angeles’ best vegan restaurants.  The signature dish I was told to try was the chicken and waffles. It was alright considering it was meat free but no one at Roscoe’s, not even if blind drunk, would have mistaken it for the real thing.

But enough of feeling sorry for myself.  The fact remains, I have high cholesterol and need to adjust my diet accordingly.  So if you have any recipe recommendations that don’t require tons of prep work or pretend soy is steak, then please share them.  I’m only one week in and already bored of the meals I’ve been making.  It’s not that they aren’t nice, it’s just that they smack of medieval asceticism.  I would love bring them into the modern age.

Below is a recipe for spiced apple plum sauce.  This weekend I ate it with steel cut oats and almonds.  Today my daughter had it with yoghurt and honey as an after school snack. Until I learn how to bake without butter or coconut oil, this will remain my treat of choice.

Ingredients:

6 apples

3 plums

1/2 inch of grated ginger

2 pieces cinnamon bark

1 clove

1 star anise

1 tsp agave syrup

 

Method:

Peel and dice your fruit.  Then place it in a saucepan with the spices and syrup.  Cook over medium heat until the mixture begins to bubble.  Simmer until thick.  Pot in a sterilized jar and process for about 25 minutes in a water bath if you want to preserve it.  If not, put it in a container in the fridge to chill and eat it within the week.

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Light Pasta Lunch

Once when I was home from college for winter holidays, my mother served the most delicious green beans I’d ever tasted.  I asked her what the sauce was.  She laughed and said “butter.”  Growing up in Los Angeles, I wasn’t raised eating butter.  It’s not that we never had it in the house, but if we did it was for cooking.  It was because a recipe called for it, not because anyone in our family ate buttered toast with jam.  The other thing we never ate was bacon, proper pork bacon.  I specify as I, like many children in Southern California, was raised on turkey bacon.  Not until moving to London five years ago did bacon become part of my diet.  I confess.  I went a little pork crazy.  That said, I still love the wholesome flavors of home.  I genuinely enjoy the slight nuttiness of whole wheat and I love a light lunch especially as summer approaches.  Below is a pasta recipe from my California days.  I hope you enjoy it.

Ingredients:

whole wheat pasta

1/2 kilo plum or cherry tomatoes

3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped

1 avocado

a handful of ripped basil leaves

olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Method:

Make your pasta according to the packet instructions.

Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a roasting dish.  Rub them with olive oil and some salt.  Place them under the broiler/grill until they start to blacken a bit.

Add the chopped garlic to the tomatoes and put back under the heat for no more than a minute.

Remove them from the broiler/grill and set aside.

Cut the avocado into chunks.

Smash the tomatoes with a fork.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Add the tomatoes to the pasta.  Mix thoroughly then add the avocado and basil.

 

avocado tomato basil pasta

RRRRatatouille

My husband’s Auntie M. is extremely grand.  She is the kind of woman who has a favorite table at The Wolseley.  Ditto J. Sheekey’s.  Ditto Ronnie Scott’s.  Of course she hasn’t been to the latter since the late 60s.  Why should she?  Mose Allison hasn’t been in years.  And though she is a woman, she has celebrated more than a few of her birthdays with private parties at Boodle’s.  The smoked eel there is wonderful.  Don’t let anyone else tell you otherwise.  Did I mention Auntie M. is extremely grand?  She is.  She has the diction of a Mitford and better posture than the queen.

On my 30th birthday, Auntie M. gave me an Hermès scarf.  She told me now that I was a woman of a certain age, my wardrobe required it.  

Last week, I saw Auntie M. and she gave me a few heads of wild French garlic.  She had just been to her home in the Languedoc and picked up several beautiful bunches before crossing the channel back to Angleterre.

garlic from Pomerols

This gift inspired me to make an enormous pot of ratatouille.  Not only because it’s delicious but because I can’t wait to tell Auntie M.  I always smile at the way she rrrrolls her posh Scottish Rs.

 

Ingredients:   

7 cloves of garlic, grated

2 onions, chopped

2 medium eggplant (aubergines), chopped

3 zucchini (courgettes), chopped

4 bell peppers, I like to get all different colors

600 grams piccolo tomatoes, quartered and de-seeded

1 bunch of thyme, chopped

1 bunch of basil, chopped

1/2 bunch parsley, chopped

3 tablespoons tomato paste

salt and pepper

olive oil

 

Method:

In a large pot, heat about a 1/4 cup of olive oil over a medium low flame.  Then add the onions and garlic.

saute onions and garlic

Stir constantly, making sure nothing burns.  When they start to caramelize, add the eggplant and thyme.

eggplant eggplant and thyme

 

When that starts to go soft, add the peppers, zucchini, and half the basil.  

peppers and courgettes

When those start to go soft, add the tomatoes and tomato paste.  Stir to incorporate.  

650 g tomatoescooking

Season with salt and pepper and don’t be precious with the salt.  You’ll need quite a bit.  Garnish with the remaining basil and serve.

serving

This goes so well with Bandol Rosé or a Picpoul de Pinet, my favorite being from Domaine La Grangette as my husband recently wrote about.  

  

 

Beet Greens Salad

Some people love beetroot.  I am not one of them.  Though I have always loved a good borscht, I have never loved beets.  In fact there was a time when I wouldn’t even eat them.  Not until I was 25 and my kid sister’s nanny always made them for her–roasted and served with balsamic vinegar, was I able to eat them without grimacing or furtively giving them to the dog under the table.  But what I have always loved are beet greens.  Sweet and delicious and packed full of antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and protein.  They’re also really pretty with bright purple veins running throughout.  It’s a shame but most supermarkets sell beetroot without the greens attached.  To get them go to a farmer’s market or just grow them yourself.  You won’t regret it.

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Ingredients:

1 bunch of beet greens, washed and chopped

a bunch of dill, chopped

1/4 cup toasted chopped almonds

the juice of 1 lemon

a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil

salt & pepper

 

Method:  Put all the ingredients into a large dish, toss ,and serve.

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Raw Chocolate Truffles

We all know chocolate is the food of the gods.  The Mesoamerican ancients taught us this.  And thank Quetzalcoatl they did because it’s delicious.  Especially raw.  That’s why I’ve been working on a raw truffle recipe so I can enjoy that rich, dark, bitter goodness in its unadulterated form.  That and my toddler adores chocolate.  While I’m not anti-candy in anyway (believe me–there are days I wake up and just want a handful of Sour Patch Kids for breakfast), I do like the idea of her eating raw homemade cacao treats with more frequency than anything manufactured by Cadbury.  Below is my recipe.  Please let me know what you think.

 

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Ingredients:

200 grams of pitted medjool dates

1/2 cup raw cacao powder (plus a little extra for dusting)

1/4 cup raw cacao nibs

1/4 cup toasted slivered almonds (save a few to top the truffles)

2 teaspoons maca powder

2 tablespoons shredded coconut (raw is fantastic but dessicated also works)

1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste

4 tablespoons light agave syrup

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1/4 teaspoon Maldon sea salt (put a little extra aside for topping the truffles)
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Method:  In a food processor, mix all ingredients until they form a thick paste.  Now roll spoonfuls of the paste into balls.  Lightly dust these truffles in a little cacao powder.  Be sure to knock off the excess.  Then gently roll just the tops in a little sea salt and dip them into the toasted almond slivers.  Set the finished truffles on baking paper and chill them in the fridge.  Serve cold or at room temperature.  I prefer the latter.
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